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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: What’s the Difference?

27 Apr 2021 - Blog

Diversity, equity and inclusion are terms that are often paired off or used interchangeably. However, it’s important to understand what these ideas mean separately in order to implement them effectively in your organisation 


  • Diversity in this context is taking into account the differences between people and placing value on those differences. Think about it as the presence of differences in any given setting.  When considering diversity, we’re thinking about representation from people of different backgrounds, identities, and abilitiesThis includes visible and non-visible characteristics At People Insight, we measure this through an employee’s ability to be their true self at work.  
  • On the other hand, inclusion is about an environment where everyone feels welcomevaluedinvolved and able to contribute. This concept puts emphasis on the way people feel.  At People Insight, we measure this through the employee’s sense of belonging. 
  • Finally, equity is making sure that everyone has access to the same opportunities. This is not to say that everyone gets treated the exact same. Some groups or individuals require more treatment and support to get them to an even playing field. At People Insight, we measure this through an employee’s perceived ability to succeed at work.  


What is Diversity and Inclusion? 

We hear it all the time, but what is the meaning of diversity and inclusion? To understand how these two concepts work cohesively, it is important to first understand the difference between diversity and inclusion and what they mean for your organisation and culture 

By definition, diversity is the condition of having or being composed of different elements. In the workplace, diversity can apply to colleagues of different races, ethnicities, and cultures. Being diverse can also apply to other aspects of an individual such as age, gender, religion, and disabilityIt also extends beyond what people look and sound like.  We call these non-visible characteristics, such sexual orientation, education, socio-economic background, and neurodivergence, for example 

A truly diverse environment is one where people of different backgroundsidentities and abilities are respected and experience unbiased interactions. Diversity is something to be celebrated and valued and is proven to have a positive impact on aspects of business performance.  

Presently, organisations tend to be diverse through headcount (e.g., geographical representation), but not necessarily by design (active recruitment from underrepresented groups). 

The business benefits of diversity


Introducing a D&I programme? Read our article: Building the business case for diversity 


What is Inclusion?

Inclusion is often thought of as an organisational effort that provides individuals with a sense of belonging. It requires that each employee’s contributions and opinions are not only valued but also incorporated into the company’s culture.  

An inclusive culture is one where employees feel that there are no barriers to being open and true to themselves. The goal is for employees to feel a sense of involvement and the ability to contribute to company-wide discussions and projects.  

While many believe that being diverse means that you are inclusive, it is not always the case. For the two concepts to be successful within your organisation, you must understand that diversity without inclusion is uselessespecially when the voices from diverse groups are not heard.  

As Robert F. Smith puts it, “You have to create a workforce process and a workforce environment that makes people feel not just invited to the party, but also asked to dance.”


What is Diversity and Equity? 

Once you are comfortable with the concept of diversity, it is important to then look at what we mean by equityoften referred to as equal opportunity. Workplace equity stems from treating employees without discrimination.  

Equity in the workplace means that every individual receives the same and fair treatment as everyone else (the homogenous group). When equity is present, people have equal opportunities across the board. This can ultimately open opportunities for both employers and employees. It can also be celebrated in an organisation’s employee value proposition.  

With this in mind, organisations can implement more equity into their workforce and bring more opportunity for individuals to succeed regardless of their background or identity. One example of equity at work is using blind screening when reviewing candidates for hire or promotion. Another example is making sure that everyone understands how your rewards & recognition programme works, and clearly communicating why someone has received a reward and how others can too. A key objective is about removing bias from processes and behaviours.   


What is Equity vs Equality? 

It is also important to highlight the difference between equality and equity. Equality is ensuring that everyone gets the same opportunities for success. However, there are circumstances where not everyone is at the same level due to race, gender, income, sexuality, or another defining factor.  

Both equity and equality promote fairness. However, equality achieves this by treating everyone as the same, whereas equity does so by treating people differently dependent on their needIn order to achieve equality, equity is needed to give everyone the same chance of getting there 

As activist DeRay Mckesson has said, “The difference between equity and equality is that equality is everyone gets the same thing and equity is everyone gets the things they deserve.” 


How Can You Measure Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I)? 

Best practice assessments of how employees are feeling are typically done via anonymous surveys. An Equity, Diversity and Inclusion survey gives an accurate picture of how inclusive and fair people feel your culture is, why they feel like this and what you can do to improve things. It also tells you how the experience differs between your chosen demographic groups. 

People Insight’s organisational psychologists have designed a question-set to assess EquityDiversity & Inclusion. These questions apply to organisations of all sizes and sectors. They can also be adapted to suit your organisation. For example, to align with your D&I strategy; measure a specific aspect or develop a baseline to track progress from. 

People Insight recommend using quantitative and qualitative survey questions to understand how employees experience your workplace culture and highlight priority areas for action.  

Quantitative survey questions could include:  

  • People with backgrounds like mine are able to succeed here  
  • If I raised a concern, I feel confident that I would be treated fairly and taken seriously 
  • Everyone here has an equal opportunity to develop 

To provide space for employee comments and suggestions, we also recommend including 1-2 open-text questions in your ED&I survey. For example, you might ask: 

  • What types of behaviors or acts make you feel included? 
  • What do you like about the company culture and what do you wish you could change? 


The difference between diversity, equity and inclusion is significant and important to recogniseBy understanding that diversity relates to having a unique workforce built of different individuals, equity relates to fair treatment, and inclusivity relates to the feeling of belongingyou can create a culture where everyone feels connected, involved and respected. 


Measure and improve Diversity, Equity and Inclusion  

People Insight help organisations of all sizes and sectors measure ED&I and use the insights to create a more inclusive workplace.  

Fast and flexible D&I surveys  

  • Real time actionable survey results in our easy-to-use dashboard so your organisation can rapidly respond to feedback.  

Pivot between all your survey insights in one platform  

  • Assess your organisation’s health effortlessly including Engagement, Diversity and Inclusion, Wellbeing or other ad hoc surveys – all in one place. 

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